Yarmouth's Main Street home to many facade improvements
The Town of Yarmouth has set aside $150,000 to help fund the facade-improvement program
Yarmouth's downtown has a fresher look these days, thanks in part to a program that is helping eligible property owners make facade improvements to commercial properties on Main Street.
"Once the first group started to do the work, it became contagious," said Gil Dares, the chair of the Yarmouth Façade Society, the group overseeing the project.
He said the town is blessed with a lot of lovely, old buildings in the downtown core, but many were looking tired, especially as businesses dried up because of the shutdown of the Yarmouth ferry.
"It was time to put some lipstick on the old pig and dress her up a bit," said Dares.
The way the program works is that property owners can receive up to 50 per cent of the cost of making the improvements back, up to a maximum of $5,000. As well, the cost of getting a development permit fee has been waived and property owners were even eligible to get up to $500 from Ekistics Plan + Design, a company that has advised people on how to improve a buildings' facade and make it more welcoming.
"The total package is worth a little more than the $5,000," said Dares.
The Town of Yarmouth is providing $150,000 to fund the program.
The program is part of a larger plan to make landscaping, lighting and other improvements to the area to make it more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. As well, there will be new signage, banners and kiosks to promote the downtown. ACOA is providing $500,000 for this.
About 30 people are showing serious interest in the program
As of Monday, five property owners had been reimbursed for work they had completed, while another 16 applications are in and another eight people have expressed interest, said Dares.
One of the property owners to take part in the program is Sharon Lloyd, the owner of the Yarmouth Wool Shoppe, located at 352 Main Street. She had the front and side of her building painted, had a new window put in and added some new signage.
"It is a good program," said Lloyd.
The program can also apply to the sides of buildings which can be prominently seen from Main Street. Originally, the program was just for the front facades, but that modified, said Dares.
Lloyd has even decided to paint the back of her building, even though it isn't covered by the program.
Some people are spending a lot of money
Dares says actions like these aren't a surprise. He knows of two instances where people are spending upwards of $40,000 each to make improvements to the properties' facades.
"We expect that the investment in the downtown properties to be several times more than the grant monies will reimburse," he said.
Lloyd would like to see more participation from the landlords of empty properties on Main Street.
"Maybe their places would get rented if they looked a little better," she said.
Dares hopes the program gets offered again, but is expanded to include other areas such as the waterfront.